Last Friday, I watched 《华丽上班族之生活与生存》, a Chinese play about machinations and ideals in the corporate world, at the Esplanade Theatre. On the whole, including two stoppages for technical difficulties for which the stage manager was sincerely apologetic and in repentance of which announced that the horrifically expensive drinks at the bar would be on the house (cue cheers and long lines), it was entertaining, with some laugh-out-loud moments, such as when Sylvia Chang‘s character was introduced to the company’s new secretary, Qiu Ju, who had the same name as Gong Li‘s litigous peasant in the Golden Lion-winning The Story of Qiu Ju, prompting Chang to quip: “Here to fight a lawsuit?” (It’s probably funnier in Chinese.)
On discussing the play with the pal I watched it with, I realised that she seemed to have appreciated it much more than I did. While she talked about how the play’s theme song (an oldie goodie by Angus Tung called 其实你不懂我的心, literally translated as “Actually You Don’t Know My Heart”) suited its main characters’ amorphous and unknowable – even to themselves – motivations, I talked about the actors’ over-acting and the occasionally clumsy dialogue. I was a little uneasy that our sense of what made for a good play differed so much, but as we continued to earnestly make our points, I came to realise that this was opening my eyes to the merits of the play, which I had been entertained but not moved by.
Participating in frank discussions like that – about a concert performance, a movie, an idea at work, a way to cook a dish – can serve to get us to appreciate a different aesthetic. And really, that’s quite a good deal eh, appreciating more in life?
P/S. By the way, the play was, I felt, misleadingly publicised in English as Design for Living, which is also the name of a Noel Coward play.